Saturday, 15 April 2017

House and Garden

It's been a quiet but industrious week at home, getting into the garden when it's sunny and sorting stuff out around the house when that cold wind starts blowing.
The veggie beds have been manured and one bed has been planted up with 25 Jerusalem artichoke tubers.  Yes, I hadn't realised exactly how much space they'd take up but I'll be planting up between the lines with chard and kale, while the other bed will hold the broad beans, beetroot, courgettes, gherkins and everything else I get round to planting.

The fruit bushes are flowering and seem to be benefitting from the new sense of order that the trellis has imposed - at least they can now breath without the loganberry trying to smother them all.

Beautiful broad beans, both red and green varieties.  I'm so looking forward to risotto primavera later in the year.

Mixed salad including the intriguing 'Wasabi Rocket', I'm thinking peppery and fresh salad all summer long - or maybe blow your head off salad all summer long.  Time will tell.
Jean-Luc has been busy cooking up two weeks worth of meals for the freezer including steak & kidney pies, lasagne, chilli and fish pie. Cooking from scratch saves us money and means we know exactly what's in our food and we get easy, frozen meals that taste great.
And, finally, I made some soap. I've been making soap now for about 8 years and I've written about making it here before, but I realised that I've never posted a picture of the finished article - so here it is.  20 bars of lime scented soap, curing in the pantry.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Hinterland 3

Oh Frabjous Joy! I've just discovered Hinterland is back for series 3.
I've written about this series before and never mind Broadchurch; this is the series to be watching.
It's not Agatha Christie or Midsummer Murders - it's much darker than that.

Filmed in a mix of claustrophobic detail and agrophobia inducing cinematographic landscapes;
 the vast bleakness of the land is matched by the bleakness of the lead character who lours over the production like the dark clouds of retribution.  He is ably assisted by another detective whose glossy black hair hints at one of Morrigan's ravens urging on the warrior in his battles against the evil that humans do.
If that sounds a bit over the top that is because this series totally draws you in, the plotting is strong and the storylines never fail to show the darkness and despair that surrounds murder and its effects on the local communities.
It's filmed twice; once in Welsh and again in English and the English version is peppered with sub-titles, enhancing the fact you are in a foreign land, forcing you to pay attention and focus on the dialogue and characters.  The acting style is pared down and wardrobe muted and sometimes it feels as though you are looking into the very bones of peoples lives.
It's not comfortable viewing but it is bloody good and if you like Scandi-Noir, you'll love this.
Watch it and rediscover fantastic drama on the BBC.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Working Weather

We've been blessed these last few days with glorious weather; so glorious I've been able to sit in the garden with a cup of coffee in .... a t-shirt!
So of course I've been gardening, while Jean-Luc has been wood working.
He has built and put up the trellis on the back of the fruit bed. 
This is essential as the loganberry (like so many other plants in this garden) likes to roam; last year it roamed all over the fruit bed and totally obscured the gooseberries and went on to explore next doors garden.  Why do I favour plants with a wanderlust, plants whose main aim in life is to emulate the Roman army or British empire; colonising and conquering the garden, subjugating lesser plants as they go.  I shall have to retire to my secret volcano base to think this through.
  We did look at pre-made trellis but they came in at 4 times the price of this made to measure one that Jean-Luc built.
 I was thrilled to spot one of my favourite plants had bloomed.
I love Snakeheads Fritillary.  Subtle, elegant with a touch of the assassin about them.

 So while the trellis was being built, I was weeding, digging and composting the herb bed and manuring the greenhouse.  In about three weeks it'll be full of tomatoes and peppers.  We're still eating tomatoes, chutney and passata from last summer.  At least the smell will mean the cat no longer takes naps in there so I might get some planting done.
 I planted up a whole load of seeds including red and green broad beans, courgettes, rainbow chard and cucumbers.  I'm also experimenting with growing Physalis, or Cape Gooseberries, I hope they grow as they are delicious but I know that Lancashire will be a challenge for them, even in the greenhouse.  Green fingers crossed.
The next task is to order in some 'exotic slips' such as sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and possibly some Oca.
This year I am mainly experimenting.
 I couldn't resist taking some pictures of these lovely plants.
The charismatic yellow chard...
...and the sublime freshness of the new hawthorn leaves.  For me this is the very essence of spring colour.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Lovely Presents from Lovely People

I was lucky enough to receive some lovely presents for my birthday last month.
One was this fabulous book by Charlotte Mendelson from my sister.
 I have to ration myself reading it because no only is the cover as sumptuous as the writing is beautiful, but it is also hilarious; laugh out loud, gurglingly funny.
My sister has great taste in books.
And my lovely friend Helen knitted me this purrfectly marvellous cat.
Isn't is amazing!
It looks so at home on the shelf.
I am very lucky.
ps not to be outdone Jean-Luc is taking me to Amsterdam in May, we're going tulip spotting at the Keukenhof Gardens

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Tigers in the Bamboo

It's spring and as the days warm out we begin to venture into the garden once again.  A beautiful time of year but a dangerous one also, for woe betide any one who wanders too close to the bamboo thicket.
Before they know it they may well be ambushed by a well camouflaged tiger, waiting to spring on unwary prey.
Always a favourite ploy if you happen to be carrying pots or plants down to the greenhouse.
Otherwise in the garden there is exciting news - things are beginning to grow!
 The wild garlic is making a very welcome appearance and spreading nicely too.

 Baby chives share space with daffodils.
 The army of Lysimachia girds its loins as it prepares for a summer campaign to colonise new territories - much like the Roman Army.  Constant vigilance and strict patrols are the only way the cranesbill geraniums can protect their borders. There is much muttering from the rest of the plants in the border about Hadrian's Wall, especially when they have to also contend with the guerrilla like forays of the Fox and Cubs infiltrating the rest of the border.  Possibly a mistake to have planted that one!
 Rainbow chard still growing and still beautiful and delicious.
Baby Bloody Dock is growing by the hedge (and showing the appalling weediness of the back of the border).  This wild plant is a relative of Common Dock but is the young leaves are edible; they have a lovely lemony, slightly bitter taste similar to sorrel and are delicious in salads and with fish.
It's a wonderful time of year, full of plans and optimism for the veggie beds and visions of what the garden will look like, without the disappointment of slug, caterpillar and late frosts to dim one's hopes.  I can't wait for the wild garlic to get large enough to make some pesto with it - yum!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A little bit of Hygge or Murfle

I know Hygge is 'The Big Thing' at the moment, but to be honest my sister and I knew about it decades ago; except as teenagers we coined our own word for it and that word was - Murfle.  It meant to snuggle down on a cold or rainy day with a hot drink and favourite book, it meant a thick, snuggly jumper and socks, it meant going shopping as adults and looking at something and saying 'it's very murfle isn't it?' and knowing that object was a reminder of home and comfort and the shutting out of a cold, harsh world.

So today after nearly two weeks of Jean-Luc being ill with viral laryngitis and an ear infection (and I suspect an accompanying throat infection) I felt the need to take a cheerful photo of the flowers I'd bought him.  It's a dynamic of our relationship that some may find strange, that when he is ill or miserable I buy him flowers or in summer I'll pick him a small posy from the garden for his office desk. It's my way of telling him I care.

Thankfully the rest and antibiotics are working and he's feeling a lot better but not so much better that I can't beat him at Scrabble - I don't see it as taking advantage but alternative health appraisal. 😈